frustratingly true

In my experience, Christian courtships are about as straightforward as the Cha Cha Slide: You take two steps forward, then one step back. You meet one another’s parents, then decide to limit your time together. You start talking about marriage, then you stop engaging in any physical contact. You start praying together, but you also begin “fasting” from one another.

Most Christian couples have their own version of this back and forth, and it’s somewhat understandable. New relationships are intoxicating. Falling in love is blissfully disorienting, so it’s easy to lose your true North. Everything, including God, can take a backseat to your beloved. Knowing this, many well-meaning Christians work hard to stay on the straight and narrow. In an earnest attempt to honor God and one another, many sincere couples take a circuitous route marked by pain, confusion and unnecessary detours.

Man does this resonate!

  Two years after I wrote that taking it slow is a good idea; well 21 months after I described a budding friendship and how I was content that it was lingering in the non-physical get to know each other stage; I compare the words I then wrote publicly with the private words written 13 months later.

July 2011: Last month, and the two months before (I like natural progressions) I lingered and thoroughly enjoyed a developing friendship that, if stops there, will last because we have respected each other enough to make sure that’d be possible.  No bridges will have been burned.

Aug 2012:

& that’s that.The likelihood of hearing from him again, at least anytime soon, is extremely thin.  Win win?  If he’s interested he’ll finally

*sigh.  poor guy.  “I don’t know how to be anything other than friends”

Actually, neither do I.  Was it worth burning that bridge?

We haven’t spoken since.  Oops.

Bridges are supposed to stay intact when you do it right; doing it right means honoring the other person and respecting the fact that they may be someone else’s spouse one day and what- attempting to treat them like a sibling? so much for that idea.  Protecting the other from ourselves didn’t work.  The pickles went sour.  There was an awkwardness there that doesn’t exist with my real brothers.  A fear of ‘doing it wrong’, ‘getting too close’.  There were hormones activated that frankly my bros don’t trigger.

“If you and a woman are hot for each other, you aren’t “just friends.” I don’t care if you go out on dates alone or with the whole church choir. It also doesn’t matter if you wear a HAZMAT suit and stay ten feet away from her at all times. If romance is the goal of a man and woman’s relationship, they are dating. Confuse it with friendship at your peril.” -Stephen W. Simpson

Yeah well romance wasn’t the point.  We didn’t meet on a dating site and neither one of us was too concerned about a subscription running out.  I wasn’t intimidated by his admission that he moved ‘as slow as molasses’ and we agreed that the awkwardness was a good thing because it meant that neither was trying to get something from the other.

We really were trying to be just friends.

What happened?

It finally boiled down to my dizziness- I had enough of quasi dates and shifting boundaries (I’ll accept responsibility for the latter). I’ve never been one for the Cha Cha.  A day before I finally gave him an ultimatum (“I can’t keep following you around to have you shrug me off as nothing special”; basically ‘you deny me and I’ll deny you.  I’m sorry) I wrote that I had no desire to bury this season but I wanted to be able to use it, talk about it, laugh it off.

It’d be super comical if it weren’t so frustrating.

Most of the people close to me will recognize this story, at least pieces of it.  My hope is that I didn’t condense it so much as to remove the honor from the words.  Even now, nine months after we’ve spoken and six since I found out about his current gf, I’ve struggled, successfully I hope, to respect his wishes and implant a respect of him in those that hear my side of the tale.

I believe that even this silence is a sign that he still respects me and the seemingly arbitrary lines I keep drawing.

Regardless of whether that’s the case, I keep reminding myself that it’s really not about him.  This particular Cha Cha was about teaching me so much more than how to avoid failing a friendship.

This was about more than rules, more than about how to express some new-found assertiveness in small pieces rather than a cruel chunk.  This lesson was bigger than how to admit and accept imperfection.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. (Treating Alcoholism by Robert Perkinson).

Its an AA core tenant/ promise and a known truth.

People find encouragement in other people’s stories.  What kind of spin will I place on mine?

Every good story has a moral, right?

Surely there are others who got caught in the shoulds and should nots that could be encouraged to hear that they’re not alone.  Can I say it right now?  If you’re struggling on how to do this [Christian] dating thing right 1) you are not alone but 2) honey there is no right way.

Christians especially, hear me.  Please- in this age that we’re surrounded by cohabitation and we’re worried about the example we’re setting and panic- I gotta get this right, but what is this….  hun- repeat after me- it’s ok.

Your struggle is beautiful.

You are confused by the emotions.  It’s ok.  We were made to enjoy them- not try to self-medicate so we don’t have to feel.  The struggle to honor a friend and their wishes is beautiful.  The struggle to differentiate between friendship and types of friendship and whatever else is out there is beautiful.  Christians, again I speak especially to you- the struggle against letting the verse that it wasn’t good when man was alone cohabitate with the theology that Jesus is supposed to be more than enough (‘There’s nothing on this earth for me’ repeated half a dozen times in slo mo can start to get at ya) is beautiful.

Your God given desire for intimacy is beautiful and pushing through your fear of getting hurt again is gorgeous.

Don’t worry so much about getting it wrong.

Granted, I believe there are wrong ways about going at a relationship.  Call me old fashioned, but even as a little girl, I thought that when a pastor said ‘you may kiss the bride’ he was giving a very eager man permission to do something he had dreamed about and longed for.  I also believe in forgiveness and fresh starts and the fact that healthy relationships are built around scars.

Don’t be so afraid of hurting each other.  Be scared of walking away from a gaping wound.

Like I did.

I repeat my apology but I don’t need or want to have to wait for my story to be tied into a neat bow before I’m allowed to share it.  I don’t trust neat and tidy bows because this growing up stuff is supposed to get a bit messy.  You’re gonna get hurt – like Elizabeth in Redeeming Love saying that she can’t make it through childbirth without a bit of discomfort, I can describe the fragments of wisdom that I’ve gained from this particularly painful dance that apply to different aspects of life even if that particular gentleman and I never speak again.  I can empathize with others on a whole new level because of some of the intensity I’ve come to feel through this one season.

A woman prefaced her encouragement about my beautiful struggle with, “you may not see this now but”. Oh I’ve seen it.  I know it’s gorgeous- in the same way that brown eyes can catch the light and turn hazel when glossy.

Whatever your story, it won’t be or even look perfect.  You’re not fooling anyone.  Be grateful that you don’t have to.